Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) joins forces with Sgt. Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) to search for a serial killer who’s terrorizing Los Angeles. As they track the potential culprit (Jared Leto), Baxter is unaware that the investigation is dredging up echoes of Deke’s past, uncovering disturbing secrets that could threaten more than his case.
Released earlier in the year on HBO Max as part of Warner Brother’s audacious decision to release films in theatres and online day and date, The Little Things finally crosses the pond and is now available on Premium VOD for UK audiences.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, best known for directing Sandra Bullock to her Oscar in The Blind Side and trying to make Walt Disney & Pamela Travers working relationship glossy in Saving Mr Banks, The Little Things is a serial killer mystery drama set in 90s Los Angeles. A very polished film clearly inspired by iconic serial killer procedural films like Se7en and Zodiac, both directed by David Fincher. Add the presence of three Oscar winners in the form of Washington, Malek and Leto and The Little Things on paper seems like a promising prospect.
And for most of its two-hour run, The Little Things keeps your attention. The sinister atmosphere is alluring, the mysteries behind the central crime and the hidden past of Deacon (Washington) are quite compelling and there are some very competent performances from Washington and Malek. Nothing truly outstanding but if we’re focusing on performances for a moment, Jared Leto is the standout as the wickedly charismatic and deeply troubling prime suspect.
If it was simply a straight forward murder mystery, The Little Things would make a good piece of Saturday night entertainment. But the film’s bold pivotal direction in the third act to go somewhere else leaves the mystery annoyingly frustrating. To avoid spoiling this, the best way I can sum this pivotal moment is the film’s best idea of a conclusion is to take us all the way back to square one. The Little Things promises you something at the start of the film and ultimately delivers something else. Whether or not you find it satisfying is down to taste but, for this reviewer, it didn’t sit well.
A film can leave you asking questions but when it comes across as a giant visual middle finger; you ultimately come out of The Little Things feeling like you’ve just wasted your time and, as this is a premium VOD, wasted £15.
I’ve had some time to think about the film since watching it and I accept that this direction makes perfect sense in the journeys of the characters. At the heart of The Little Things is a film about dangerous obsession. The obsession of following and needing to solve a crime. It has no problems sewing this plot theme throughout the film but it comes at a cost of subplots that we’ve been told for the majority of the film are just as important.
We’ve been invited to be invested in them; we’ve been obsessed with them like our lead characters and in the space of 20 minutes, the film seemingly decides to throw it away. Worried about that character from the second act? Don’t worry, it’s not important anymore, don’t worry about where they are and if they’re remotely alive or dead. What about that important bit of evidence from Act 3? What evidence? Put that evidence down, you don’t need that evidence now. What’s the point of this anymore?
A film can leave you asking questions but when it comes across as a giant visual middle finger; you ultimately come out of The Little Things feeling like you’ve just wasted your time and, as this is a premium VOD, wasted £15. There are definitely audiences that will enjoy the performances and The Little Things’ final destination. But there will be audiences, just like me, that enjoyed the performances but got annoyed about how things are left.
The Little Things (2021)
While the Oscar-winning trio ensnares viewers into The Little Thing’s pivotal murder mystery, it can’t make up for the unanswered questions the film ultimately leaves you with when the end credits roll.
Reviewed by Iain Boulton